Select committee to put libraries cuts under spotlight

The Culture, Media and Sport select committee is to hold an inquiry into library closures.

The cross-party committee, chaired by Conservative MP John Whittingdale, will have the power to call ministers Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey to give evidence, as well as local authorities and library campaigners.

The committee is inviting written submissions and requesting views on what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century, the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, the impact library closures have on local communities and the effectiveness of the secretary of state’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act. Submissions should go to cmsev@parliament.uk, with “library closures” in the subject line, by a deadline of 12th January 2012. A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website.

A spokesperson for the DCMS said the department “noted” the announcement. Annie Mauger, chief executive of CILIP, said she was “absolutely delighted” by the news, having been lobbying select committee members to hold an inquiry “for some time.” Campaigner Desmond Clarke described the inquiry as "wonderful news".

Tim Coates, chair of umbrella group Libraries for Life for Londoners, said: "At long last the culture select committee have decided to interrogate the activities of the DCMS because that is their job." However, he warned that to have any authority, the committee needed to explain why it had allowed the DCMS to ignore the findings of the last committee inquiry, chaired by Gerald Kaufman, published in 2005. Coates said it found the library service was in poor condition and made recommendations for its improvement.